Federal task force to crack down on e-cigarettes

ADA urges ‘all hands on deck’ in coalition letter


The Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Justice announced a new federal agency task force aimed at combatting illegal sales and distribution of e-cigarettes. The ADA has previously advocated for mitigating unauthorized e-cigarette products, including flavored products that put young people at risk.  

The June 10 announcement follows criticism from lawmakers and public health groups who have pointed to illicit products entering the country. The task force will include the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the U.S. Marshals Service; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; and the Federal Trade Commission to fight the illegal distribution and sale of e-cigarettes. Other agencies may join the task force in the coming months. 

The task force will focus on investigating and prosecuting new criminal, civil, seizure and forfeiture actions, as well as the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The goal is the seizure of unauthorized products, which will, in turn, make illegal e-cigarettes less accessible, including to American youth. 

At present the FDA has authorized the sale of 23 specific tobacco-flavored e-cigarette products and devices, meaning these are the only e-cigarette products that currently may be lawfully marketed and sold in the country. 

The ADA signed onto a May 22 coalition letter encouraging the FDA, DOJ and U.S. Customs and Border Protection to “use all the enforcement tools at their disposal against manufacturers, distributers, wholesalers and retailers” to clear the market of unauthorized e-cigarette products. 

“Despite the fact that FDA has denied marketing authorization for millions of flavored e-cigarette products, several studies have shown that the number of e-cigarettes on the market has increased and that these products have gotten larger in volume, stronger in nicotine strength and cheaper to buy,” the letter states. 
In the coalition letter, the groups advocated for the adoption of several concrete changes in tobacco enforcement policies to alleviate the issue. These include urging:

•    The FDA to make more frequent use of the full range of available enforcement tools.
•    The FDA to seek greater penalties in civil monetary penalty actions.
•    The DOJ to prioritize tobacco product enforcement and to streamline the process for bringing actions for injunctive relief.
•    The Customs and Border Protection to prioritize efforts to stop illegal importation of unauthorized products. 
•    Bringing enforcement actions against all parties in the supply chain. 
•    The FDA to end broad exercise of enforcement discretion. 

 “We urge FDA, DOJ and CBP to respond with an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ strategy that will use all enforcement tools at their disposal to protect the public health, and particularly the health of our young people, from the flood of illegal, unauthorized e-cigarettes,” the letter concludes. 

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